Lotus is making moves to offer its first-ever SUV to the Chinese market by 2019. If the Chinese release is a success, Lotus will consider bringing it to other markets, including North America and Europe. However, the process could take up to five years, which would put the 2018 Lotus SUV on our shores around 2024. 

That’s the word coming from Lotus’ CEO Jean-Marc Gales, who broke the news in an interview with Auto Express

“The first market will be China but we haven’t yet decided if it will be sold anywhere else. But obviously if the car is a success there – and I strongly believe it will – we will go outside of China,” Gales told the U.K. publication.

In the interview, Gales reconfirmed that the new SUV will be lighter and faster than the competition. He also called out Stuttgart, saying, “The nearest rival will be the Porsche Macan – but ours will be better.”

Earlier this year, Lotus’ owner, the Malaysian company DRB-Hicom, signed a joint-venture agreement with Chinese manufacturing company Goldstar Heavy Industrial to help push the new SUV forward. The Chinese government has yet to grant the licenses required to begin production. 

So far, there’s no word on what platform the SUV will utilize, but in a previous interview with Car And Driver, Gales said Lotus might source something from its parent company, Proton. 

On the engine side of things, Gales said he would like to continue Lotus’ partnership with Toyota, which puts gasoline and possibly hybrid power on the table. But in order to be sold in Europe, Gales said the SUV would need to be offered with a diesel powerplant. Given Toyota is now focused on developing tech like hydrogen fuel cells, Lotus might need to source its diesel options from another automaker.

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Why it matters

Lotus knows it’s invoking the ire of brand loyalists by developing an SUV, but hopefully, the zealots will forget about it if it’s only offered in China. I’m not saying there aren’t Chinese Colin Chapman fans, I’m just saying that as far as I can tell, most of the crazier, more outspoken ones live in the West.

Lotus knows it’s invoking the ire of brand loyalists by developing an SUV, but hopefully, the zealots will forget about it if it’s only offered in China.

Either way, Gales would disagree with the popular opinion regarding the company’s founder. In an interview with the U.K. publication Daily Telegraph, Gales said if he were alive today, Chapman “...would probably build an SUV as well.”

You might be asking yourself how Gales could say such a thing given Chapman’s famous quote regarding simplicity and lightness. Well, as the majority of sports car manufacturers will tell you, the SUV market is simply too juicy to neglect. And according to Glen Sealey, Lotus’ Australia and New Zealand general manager, the move is critical to Lotus, which is just starting to bounce back after a rough few years and a major corporate restructuring.

"I’m all for anything that allows a brand like Lotus to survive. If we sit here today and look back 15 years at Porsche, the company would be dead without an SUV today,” Sealey said, adding that SUV sales inevitably leads to investment in other models, such as dedicated sports cars.

So far, sales and profits at Lotus are slowly increasing. Over the next three years, Lotus hopes to increase production substantially to 4,000 units annually, up from the 2,000 units produced in 2014. The new SUV would be integral to hitting those numbers.

Source: Auto Express

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